John Mayer Previews Dive Bar Tour in L.A.: "Here, the Gloves Are Off"
"I feel like in the arena, there's more room for the soundwaves to kind of bloom and float ... and here, it's a bit like the gloves are off," Mayer told Billboard.
With John Mayer shifting from playing for 20,000 fans at Madison Square Garden on his Search for Everything Tour to performing at Los Angeles' 500-capacity Echoplex on Wednesday night for the Bud Light Dive Bar Tour, you might expect him to go a little more intimate and acoustic for the occasion. But he actually told Billboard before the show that he had the exact opposite instinct.
"I have a lot to draw from now that I've made so many different kinds of records," Mayer said about his approach to the gig. "At first, I wasn't sure why I was doing it — it's a little scary in the moment. But then you look back and go, 'Oh, I can pull a lot of different feels' — feels of music, not feels like feelings — different music feels. Well ... also feels like feelings. And so it just makes sense for a night like tonight that you pull out your barrelhouse blues, rock 'n' roll guitar-solo stuff, the groove-heavy stuff.
"If it were the coffeehouse tour," he added, "then I would be doing a different thing. I'd be going a little deeper into the acoustic side, the lyrical thing. But I think tonight's about the way that drums and electric guitar and bass sound in a club."
So he brought along a full band to the tiny venue — including drummer Steve Jordan and bassist Pino Palladino from his John Mayer Trio — to really bring the rock to L.A.'s Echo Park neighborhood. "I feel like in the arena, there's more room for the soundwaves to kind of bloom and float — that's what I really like about arenas. And here, it's a bit like the gloves are off," Mayer said before the show. "The soundwaves, they don't get an opportunity to blossom. They just come right at you. It's a street fight."
And he was prepared for battle at Wednesday's show, which put a spotlight on Mayer's latest album, The Search for Everything, while also drawing from the rock and blues columns of his back catalog, including the John Mayer Trio's rowdy "Who Did You Think I Was" and Continuum's groovy "Slow Dancing in a Burning Room."
Which isn't to say he completely avoided his acoustic beginnings for the set. In fact, once the Bud Light Facebook live stream wrapped after an hour-plus, Mayer returned with just one other guitarist for his stripped-down cover of Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'" before taking the stage solo for fan requests of some of his early deep cuts, including Room for Squares closer "St. Patrick's Day" (during which he playfully struggled to recall the chords) and the "put your camera down and look up" classic "3x5."
Before saying goodbye to Facebook viewers, Mayer invited Alessia Cara onstage to help him wrap up the live stream (which you can watch below). The "Here" singer came out to Erykah Badu's "On and On" before trading verses with Mayer on "Stay," her Billboard Hot 100 top 10 hit with Zedd, and on Mayer's own "Gravity."
Mayer's Search for Everything Tour continues Thursday night in Sacramento, Calif., while the Bud Light Dive Bar Tour still has two remaining stops: one in New Orleans on Aug. 30 with a yet-unnamed artist, and then Lady Gaga's rescheduled date, after she had to postpone a planned Las Vegas show earlier this month.
"I gotta tell ya — this Bud Light Dive Bar Tour — I wish all tours were this short," Mayer quipped from the stage Wednesday. "'I'm goin' on tour!' 'When ya comin' home?' 'Tonight!'"
This article originally appeared on Billboard.com.